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Top spot in Eastern Conference on the line

by Adam Schwartz

First place in the Eastern Conference is at stake tonight in Montreal when Carey Price and the Canadiens host Jamie Langenbrunner and the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre.
The nine NHL games on Tuesday night’s docket have heavy playoff implications as the postseason draws closer.

The Philadelphia Flyers face the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Colorado Avalanche visit Atlanta, the New Jersey Devils battle the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference and the Boston Bruins square off in a Northeast Division contest with the Ottawa Senators. The Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks face the Detroit Red Wings in an Original Six match.

The red-hot San Jose Sharks visit the Nashville Predators, the St. Louis Blues continue their nine-game road trip in Edmonton and the Anaheim Ducks play the Phoenix Coyotes.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

* Colorado center Joe Sakic, who has recorded at least 100 points in six seasons, has two goals and one assist for three points in eight games since returning from hernia surgery, which kept the 38-year-old out of action for 38 games.

* The Thrashers, who have just one win in their last 10 games, have plummeted to No. 14 in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. Atlanta, which has allowed the most goals in the conference with 230, has yielded the most road goals in the League with 120.

* The Flyers, who are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, have the third-most road victories in the conference, with 19.


* Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina, who has the third-highest average ice time on the team at 23:48 per game, leads the team and is fourth among players in the Northeast Division with 139 blocked shots.

* Devils left wing Zach Parise, who leads the team with 30 goals and 60 points, has five goals in his last three games.

* After winning his first three games following the trade of Cristobal Huet, Carey Price has lost two of his last three games, but has faced no less than 37 shots during that span.

* The Bruins, who have lost four of their last five games, have allowed 20 goals during that span, including a 10-2 loss to the Washington Capitals and an 8-2 loss to Toronto.

* Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov is third in the League with 174 blocked shots.

* Islanders right wing Blake Comeau, selected No. 47 overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has a goal and an assist in his last three games while seeing less than 12 minutes of ice time per game.

* Tampa Bay right wing Michel Ouellet, who leads the team with a plus-9 rating, has five goals and three assists for eight points in his last eight games.


* Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook, who has the second-highest average ice time among Chicago players, at 21:21 per game, is a plus-12 in his last 20 games, with just one game as a minus.

* Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who leads the Central Division with an average of 26:48 of ice time per game, had two assists in his return from a sprained right knee Sunday in the Red Wings’ 4-3 victory against the Predators.

* San Jose defenseman Brian Campbell, acquired on trade-deadline day from the Buffalo Sabres, has one goal and five assists for six points in seven games with the Sharks.

* Nashville center Vernon Fiddler, whose favorite actor is Morgan Freeman, has one goal and six assists for seven points in his last nine games while playing more than 16 minutes just once during that span.

* Blues right wing Lee Stempniak, selected No. 148 overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has five goals and four assists for nine points in 11 career games against the Oilers.


* Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky has two goals and 16 assists for 18 points in 16 career games against the Blues, including four assists in two games this season. Hemsky, who has had at least 40 assists in his past two seasons, is just one assist shy of making it three straight seasons.

* Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger, who leads the Pacific Division with an average of 26:07 of ice time per game, has two goals and six assists for eight points in five games against the Coyotes this season.

* Coyotes center Peter Mueller leads all rookies with 21 goals and 174 shots, but also leads the League’s first-year players with 81 missed shots.

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